Security costs could scupper Taylor-Serrano Dublin rematch * O'Neill buzzing after Eubank camp

Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano was one of the fights of 2022. Will they meet again in Dublin this year?
Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano was one of the fights of 2022. Will they meet again in Dublin this year? Katie Taylor versus Amanda Serrano was one of the fights of 2022. Will they meet again in Dublin this year?

THE major stumbling block in the way of Katie Taylor’s rematch with Amanda Serrano taking place in Dublin is the cost of security.

The Irish News has learned that the price of policing what would be a genuine global event makes staging the fight in Dublin an unattractive financial proposition for Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn.

Taylor and Serrano locked horns in a spell-binding, all-action clash in Madison Square Garden in April last year which Taylor won on split-decision. A rematch was expected at Croke Park but momentum has stalled and Serrano has dropped down to featherweight and is scheduled to face Erika Cruz Hernandez at ‘The Garden’ early next month.

Undisputed women’s lightweight champion Taylor has never fought on home soil as a professional and DAZN boss Hearn insisted late last year that his focus was “a million per cent on going to Croke Park”.

However, he warned that the cost of staging the open air event was prohibitive.

“We do need their (the GAA’s) support and we need the Irish government’s support as well,” Hearn added.

“Not in terms of allowing it to happen but this is a very expensive operation to go into Croke Park and put a fight on. It’s an expensive place, very expensive, and we believe we fill it but we’ve got to make it right numbers-wise for Katie, for Amanda (Serrano), and hopefully, we’ll be there.”

Professional boxing in the Republic has been in limbo since masked gunmen ran amok at a pre-fight weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in February 2016. One man died and two were injured in the gangland-style ‘hit’.

There was a professional bill at the National Boxing Stadium late last year but a stadium show would obviously be a different proposition for the Garda Siochana who remain wary of the threat of further violence.

With Dublin shut down, fight fans have become accustomed to heading North in large numbers for bills in Belfast. Fighters from the Republic appearing on small hall shows at the Europa Hotel and the Girdwood Community Hub brought large travelling support with them.

Meanwhile, a considerable percentage of the online ticket sales for the Michael Conlan-headlined bill at the SSE Arena were purchased south of the border.

SPARRING Chris Eubank jnr in preparation for his grudge match with Liam Smith on Saturday night was the perfect start to 2023 for Owen O’Neill.

The unbeaten Belfast super-welterweight was invited over to Eubank’s camp in Brighton the week before Christmas. He sparred three times, went home to Belfast for the festive season and was then invited back for another three spars with Eubank who had former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones jnr in his corner.

“It was an amazing experience,” said O’Neill.

“Getting invited over was a big compliment for me. They got me over because I fight like Smith a bit and I did really well.

“I couldn’t believe Roy Jones jnr was doing the opposite corner. He was giving Eubank tips of what to do against me! It was surreal but I’ve learnt a lot from it and I’m hoping that this is a big year for my boxing career and what a start to 2023.”

O’Neill finished 2022 as BUI super-welterweight champion after he conjured up a knockout of the year contender against Cavan’s Owen Duffy. Behind on the scorecards going into the final round, the flame-haired former Cliftonville player, caught Duffy with a stunning right-left hook combination.

“I was back a week ago and my body is still sore from the sparring and the training I was doing,” said O’Neill, a part-time taxi driver.

“I was training twice-a-day every day and it gave me a taste of the big-time life that I would love to live. It was a great two weeks’ and one hell of an experience.”

Eubank junior is boxing’s version of Marmite - fans either love him or hate him. But O’Neill says he enjoyed the Englishman’s company as he got to know him during his time in the camp.

“He’s actually sound as a pound,” said O’Neill.

“Not many people are fond of him because of the way he gets on but he’s a 100 per cent and he was sound to me. He welcomed me and before I left he wished me luck in my fight.

“Roy Jones junior is an absolute legend – I couldn’t believe how down-to-earth he is.”

O’Neill’s next outing is on the MHD Promotions show at the Europa Hotel on Saturday, February 4.

An opponent has yet to be confirmed but O’Neill is gearing up for a six-rounder to kick-off his year.

“I’m looking for a good year,” he said.

“I’m 10-0 and 2023 has got off to a great start already and I’m hoping for a big year. I have to pinch myself sometimes – I’m Celtic champion now and the way I won the fight (against Duffy)… I didn’t think I had that in my locker.

“It just shows you that the hard work I’m doing in the gym is starting to pay off.”

The Europa Hotel show on February 4 features some of Ireland’s best up-and-coming young prospects and flyweight Conor Quinn is the headline act in his fourth fight since returning from a spell in Australia.

Chief support is an exciting all-Ireland dust up between Kevin Cronin (Kerry) and Jamie Morrissey (Limerick). The undefeated pair battle for the vacant BUI Celtic Light-Heavyweight title over eight rounds.

Another Celtic champion, featherweight Colm ‘Posh Boy’ Murphy also continues his development on the undercard along with David Ryan who takes on former Scottish champion Marek Laskowski.

Gerard Hughes has his first fight on Irish soil as a professional following his recent pro debut in England when he faces Sean Jackson of Manchester.

“It’s great to be back at the Europa again,” said promoter Mark Dunlop.

“The atmosphere is always electric, after a fantastic year for the team we aim to push on and build for some great fights later in the year and I’m delighted for Conor Quinn who gets the opportunity to headline his first show.”

Tickets are available on or from the boxers.

CAVAN fighter Dominic Donegan is back in action in Glasgow on Saturday night. Drumgoon native Donegan (6-4-1) takes on English journeyman CJ Wood (3-10-2) at the Crowne Plaza.

Donegan lost to Irish rivals Graham McCormack and Owen Duffy but bounced back with a points win over Josh Cook in November.